“Are we peaking?” remarked a socially distanced friend from behind a facemask as we stared at each other on a sidewalk. Dressed in jogging attire and carrying a tote to pass-off as a grocery shopper in case of being stopped by the police breaking quarantine, I responded quickly with “possibly,” given that on Thursday, Colombia recorded 1,766 cases of coronavirus and highest day-on-day increase since the outbreak of the pandemic.
While there is no certainty as to when the epidemiological curve will peak – despite predictions that in the case of Bogotá the timeline could be mid-June – with 36,635 patients across the country, each major city is facing the daunting task of reopening, peak or no peak.
From a statistical perspective, in a city with at least nine million inhabitants, Bogotá’s 12,185 coronavirus cases put infection at .001% of the population, and while the numbers will increase in upcoming days and weeks, strict isolation and biosecurity controls appear to be containing the spread of the virus. On Friday, Bogotá reported 402 new cases of COVID-19, down from a previous 534. Among important measures taken by the Mayoralty of Claudia López has been limiting the use of public transportation to 30% of its capacity and promoting environmentally-friendly mobility.
Bogotá accounts for 33.5% of all cases in the country, and while the percentage is hardly encouraging after more than two months of quarantine, the number of patients in cities and departments that were first affected by the pandemic have decelerated to the point that half of the country’s 32 departments registered cases below 10 on Friday, among them Caldas, Magdalena, Boyacá, Meta, Santander, Risaralda and Tolima.
Cartagena and Barranquilla are important coastal cities that continue to be impacted by COVID-19, and Buenaventura, in Valle del Cauca, a flashpoint for contagion in the department.
Tragically, deaths from coronavirus broke a record on Friday with 58 additional fatalities raising the nationwide toll to 1,145. From the total day’s fatalities, 11 occurred in Bogotá, 18 in Barranquilla with others in Cali, Cartagena, Buenaventura, Tumaco and Leticia, to name a few.
According to data from the National Institute of Health, 24,506 PCR tests were processed during the last 48 hours resulting in 3,281 positives. This puts the reproductive rate – or Rt – at 1.3, close to the World Health Organization’s crucial value of one.
So while there is no precise response to the question “are we peaking?” chances are we are not, with the next 10 days critical given that lockdown in Bogotá will be lifted as of June 15 and economic reactivation gains momentum on July 1.